Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Education

There used to be a time when education was for its own sake.  People desired education because they wanted to know, to understand, to gain wisdom, and to have something to pass on to those they know and love.  Times change -- an obvious fact to any who have breath, intellect, and the privilege to live to a semi-aware stage of the I; that is, the self in relation to things, and others.

Now, people educate for the purpose of getting a career.  Preferably, a high-paying career.  Education is a marketable product meant to yield worker drones in a culture of conflicting hive queens.  People pay hand-over-fist to have some committee elected 'expert' plug in the puzzle pieces for a job that will round out a well-to-do wallet, and prefabricate an otherwise flexible mind.

That's not education.  It's the machinations of a kleptocratic system filching the vibrancy, and potential from innocent minds.

25 comments:

Aaron said...

Could it be that the value of education for the sake of knowledge has been lost partly due to the realization that encyclopedic knowledge is largely unattainable? One's ability to be well versed in literature, science, language, philosophy, etc. used to play a huge part in their social status-- the thought being that it was completely possible to attain this sort of universal knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Check out this website:http://www.thestar.com/article/614219
Perhaps the pursuit of knowledge and the mental and physical rigors required have been lost to the fast-food, consumeristic philosophy of the last few generations. The act of immersing oneself in one discipline for a lifetime appears to have been replaced with a need to know all things. Thus, we have opinionated people with a skeleton knowledge of almost everything, but little understanding of actually anything.
Cheers,
Wyatt

Craig said...

Maybe increasing quantities of expensive, party line education are essential to world market capitalism.
We don't need to pay to train you, go and pursue training yourself.
We don't need you to perform unskilled labour, we have foreigners for that.
What we need, is for you to owe a great debt to the system both financially and in the form of time spent.
Then we can put you in a cubical and you will have all the motivation necessary to hold you there while the system makes use of your brain power.
Someday, you can retire and then you will be free.
nice system.

Christopher said...

Aaron,

First, thank you for coming by St. Cynic and leaving a comment. It's nice to have a fresh voice. I've looked at your Cameroon blog, and it seems you and your wife are quite adventurous, and very magnanimous people. Were you there as medical help, or on a missions assignment? Or was it simply mingling with the people for a month because you felt like it?

You wrote: "Could it be that the value of education for the sake of knowledge has been lost partly due to the realization that encyclopedic knowledge is largely unattainable?"

I'm not sure that it is unattainable, to be honest. To state that someone is 'cultured' used to mean that they had a 'well-furnished mind'. That is, they were versed in many divergent fields, and were able to access information and apply it readily. Now, to be cultured simply means to be a patron of the arts. That's certainly not an ignoble reality, but it does fall short of the intended use of the word 'cultured'.

In any case, all that to say that a cultured person -- in its classical sense -- is rare these days, but not non-existent. And those that are cultured would certainly posit a 'no' in answer to your quoted question. No, because encyclopedic knowledge is attainable. I would argue, however, that it is attainable largely outside the sterile environment of modern conventional education. Autodidacts (like my wife, Sarah, for example) are typically 'cultured' individuals because their education is not a matter of convention or career pursuit; it is a matter of personal necessity, and curiosity.

"One's ability to be well versed in literature, science, language, philosophy, etc. used to play a huge part in their social status-- the thought being that it was completely possible to attain this sort of universal knowledge."

Agreed. And, as I've hit on above, I believe it is "completely possible to attain 'to' (sic) this sort of universal knowledge", even if one has to endure the disparate climate of modern, lettered education. In this though, I would argue that education for utility's sake will only ever make a person out to be what they've positioned themself to be: a tool. That's not an insult, but if education these days is for the purposes of clamping down on a 'job', then seeking the expected education is fulfilling a utilitarian scheme and creating a tool of oneself.

Education should be strictly for the purpose of educating. How a person applies it afterwards is purely up to them. Unfortunately, our universities pander to current market trends -- as Craig has pointed out already -- and, in a sycophantic twist, set up a superstructure that implies anyone going through them will almost certainly end up becoming the type of sycophant they've been trained to be.

get_education said...

Oh I so truly and sincerely agree.

get_education said...

With your comment Chris.

get_education said...

Well, if I might share my bit. I think education should be about learning to look for understanding a subject, rather than to memorizing a subject. Of course, the task requires memorization, but I mean that we need meaningful memorization rather than parroting one.

Anyway, if people were truly trained on the rigors of understanding subjects, how to get to the point of understanding, then we might be better off.

G.E.

Christopher said...

Craig,

Your comment is brilliant, lucid, shining, and fantastically relevant. Thank you for summing things up so exactly.

God bless you.

Sarah said...

Well, just to add my little bit of potentially balance-inducing opinion-ish matter-y...

I think that maybe the definition of what one is intending is maybe more relevant than a strictly defined set of parameters for the term, and understanding of, education.

For example, I went to college for applied visual arts (glass-working and later technical and scientific illustration). Clearly, this was not education for education's sake, whichever way you would like to define that. I personally engaged in the study and application of skills intended to produce and not sit idle in my head for future endeavours. The application of those skills is one of my endeavours, and I required an education to gain those skills. I happened to choose to receive that education at college. I could have just as well stayed home and learned on my own, which also would have been a perfectly valid educational option for me.

Anyway, I educate for my life's sake because it is of utmost importance to me that I live authentically, consciously, and that, for me, necessitates education, ongoing-ly. These days, I am an autodidact, but of course, enjoy the enormous contribution of others whose works and life have in many ways, defined my educational pursuits.

So saying, I would like clarification of the distinction made here, because it seems to me to be a false dichotomy. Why would education be of more value if I didn't apply it practically? Is training not a type of education? I agree regarding the idea of educating for a job- that's ridiculous, but just for the sake of covering more ground, I thought I'd put a stick in your spokes for a laugh. Lol. Or a discussion, whichever. ;)

I must admit that I am probably one of the most anti-schooling people you will ever know and only my husband is ever subject to my tirades, so even if you know me, I'll likely steer clear of the subject (or at least keep it very light) with you. ;)

From my perspective, school and education are distinct. Sometimes they happen at the same time, but not always and, it seems, not often either. There is a definite dichotomy between school and education!

Educate for whatever purpose your education serves- thought-life, application through practical means, philosophical means, or just personal growth and enjoyment. Why should I direct your education or tell you what you should do or not do with it?

The greatest injury to education, I think, is that people actually believe that it's someone else's job to give it to them, that they are not 100% responsible for what becomes of their life and whether they live it on purpose.

I went to school, but my education happened either in spite of it, or outside of it.

How about instead of "education for education's sake", "education for each (and incidentally collective) life's purpose"? Then nobody's being ripped off, nobody's wasting their or anyone else's time or money or effort, and intentional, conscious living is the expectation we have for ourselves, rather than a degree/diploma.

Sorry for the convolutions. I'm taking a new supplement, practicing ukulele, and making a big organic chicken dinner for six people... But I thought I'd poke my nose in anyway while I'm between tasks.

Anonymous said...

My education is largely, although not exclusively, autodidactic, as well.
It is out of necessity, but driven by a desire for a particular career that I want to excel at. It is a pursuit of passion and one that has required much personal discipline (and not much television).
I feel that the most important thing is to nurture a love for education, whatever form that might take. I don't consider one form of education as more valuable than another: the only thing I would take umbrance to is the idea of knowledge for knowledge sake.
Without personal application, without personal growth, I don't see the point.
I believe that knowledge should produce wisdom.
I am the only one in my family who loves reading. I don't know how that happened ...
That can be a lonely road, at times, so it is nice to have others to discuss things with, discuss books with.
I think that most people know a little about a lot of things and not vice versa. That is probably the case with me, but not because of laziness. I have a few areas that I study like crazy and those are the areas I want to excel in.
It is a balancing act when you have family to care for, and friends, and others who need a helping hand through life.
Life is so much more than accumulating knowledge. Sometimes I think the simpler people I have met have so much more to offer and are so much happier than those who seem insatiable in their pursuits.
Life is short. I'm not so sure that what we know matters as much as the person we are becoming, as our character -- the way we live our lives and care for others.
I learned that from my husband. Although he doesn't enjoy reading, he enjoys people.
He always seems to have time for people -- and they know it.
J

Sarah said...

J, you bring an interesting perspective. I am of similar opinion to you about unapplied knowledge being for naught at best; however, I guess then the definition of 'application' has to be clear.

What I mean is that philosophers are commonly targeted for the assumed lack of application of their knowledge and understanding, but we know that philosophers have been largely if not entirely responsible for human eras of thought.

On the other hand, there are still people who pursue knowledge just for knowledge and apply it poorly or not at all (I know a few) but would not be accused of this because their knowledge gave them skills (which they don't use) but in this era of thought, skills are highly prized, and so much so that their lack of application seems to go unnoticed while those who labour to undergird the zietgeist via less obvious skills are assumed to be free-loading.

It's a bizarre situation, really. I guess I come back to individual responsibility, conscious living, purposeful or intentional living, desire for clear-headed, clear-hearted action both intrinsically and extrinsically to the individual. That's not to discount the corporate reality of human interaction, but awareness has to start somewhere, and I guess I think it would be best if it started in both places- individually and corporately.

Perhaps the dirty lie that has disempowered humanity is best hung out to dry on a very visible line. If I let my journey be seen, that it is possible and even preferable to live intentionally, to be responsible for my decisions, to completely eschew blame and unhealthy dependencies, maybe another person would try it out as well.

I'm no great example presently, but my journey would be that much richer if it was shared with others, I think. Of course, learning to connect with my fellow beings is a huge part of it all, so that might take me some time too.

Christopher, I wonder what education without application would look like. I just cannot imagine the person who could be educated without application. How would s/he even know that s/he learned anything? This is not intended to be specifically an epistemological question, but rather a plain-faced practical one, which is ironic, of course.

I also know that I've strayed from your initial post, but I wonder all the same what your perspective is about this. :)

Anonymous said...

To the ancient Greeks, philosophy was a striving after wisdom.
God says that if anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask and it will be given freely.
Seeking God is seeking wisdom -- the way of a philosophical life.
Seeking the deeper meaning behind life's questions is meaningless unless that meaning can find practical purpose in our lives (how's that for circular?).
That last thought was a bit in jest. At times, me thinketh too much.
All that we seek, all knowledge that has any meaning at all -- all wisdom -- is found in a relationship with the God of the Universe.
To truly know something or someone is to be intimately acquainted with their ways -- to have understanding of that thing or person that adds meaning to our lives.
God created the mind and understands its workings better than we understand ourselves. He knew that we would have a desire to search for meaning, to desire intimacy in relationships.
There is a lot in life that does not satisfy. Being repetitive, but knowledge for knowledge sake does not satisfy -- or worse.
I love the verse that says that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (actually, that verse gives me hope).
1 Cor. 1:27
Happy Easter.
J

Anonymous said...

One last thought tonight: In his book, Sex God, Rob Bell talks about how something is always about something else.
I had this thought: Even this blog is about something else. Perhaps that "something else" is a little different for everybody.
For me, it is more about the opportunity to discuss things than it is about knowledge.
Perhaps the pursuit of knowledge is really about something else ...
J

get_education said...

Sarah,

The greatest injury to education, I think, is that people actually believe that it's someone else's job to give it to them, that they are not 100% responsible for what becomes of their life and whether they live it on purpose.

Exactly.

sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sarah said...

Sarah,

"The greatest injury to education, I think, is that people actually believe that it's someone else's job to give it to them, that they are not 100% responsible for what becomes of their life and whether they live it on purpose."

Exactly.
I just wrote a near treatise to a friend (poor J, lol) about children and their place in the family and society, and it occurred to me that a caveat is needed to this quotation. It should read "As adults..." because childhood responsibility is much different. They are still in the place of becoming (of course, we all are, but they're still newbies at it), and though it still requires 100% of who they are from them, it has to be met with another 100% from the people guiding them (definition of guidance probably necessary, but suffice it to read that whatever guidance is not- force-coercion or neglect- it doesn't change who a person is, but rather walks alongside, helping one to become fully who s/he already is, an ongoing work toward meeting potential, among other lengthier explanations).

The problem is that children are taught in mass-schooling or earlier that they need not live authentically, fully, consciously (that's just for radicals and hippies), that they must rely on experts and being spoonfed and kept 'safe', so it's really a seamless transition to the same way of living as adults.

I think Postman was correct when he wrote that our world is not dominated by either Orwellian or Huxlian philosophies, but rather by both.

It's a Brave New World stuck in 1984, and I for one would like to move on.

sarah said...

Ugh, it's me deleting my comments because I cannot fix the lack of space between the quotation and the new text. I've tried and it's not working, so sorry for the messiness of it. I'll just leave it for now.

Anonymous said...

It is wonderful when you see that your children are learning that learning is a joy. I think giving them the tools to learn for a lifetime is one of the best gifts we can give them ... along with the lessons that build character.
Knowledge and understanding put into practice in ways that benefit themselves and others.
I do believe that guidance changes who we are -- or that it could and should at times.
I have had "guidance" that wasn't something I should consider and guidance that was definitely worth listening to, considering, and applying to my life. It changed what I believed and that changed how I live my life.
That is transformation: the Word says to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Not brainwashed -- transformed. So that definitely warrants some consideration, some prayer and then deciding if it is worthy of applying in our lives.
We live in a different world. I had the priviledge of homeschooling our son and it was a joy. It was a surprise to see what he had not learned. It was also a surprise to learn what he was interested in learning and that he loved reading when he could choose the books he wanted to read (Max Lucado and Cori Tenboom's Hiding Place).
We read together. He read. He started doing creative writing and wrote dramas and poetry (a total surprise for me).
We talked so openly about things.
I discovered he really could do math and that math was more about life than a textbook.
It was a wonderful time for us both.
Our mistake, often, is that assuming a child has certain capabilities and not others and in forgetting how children learn -- much the same way that we learn.
Who would not rather learn by touching and tasting and seeing and smelling?
We have learned to learn by reading, which is wonderful, and by testing that in the world around us and measuring it by the Word of God, by those we trust and can discuss things with ...
There is an arrogance in telling someone who they are instead of allowing them to discover who they are while we walk alongside.
I am torn about what we call "authority". I am all for respect. But respect and trust are earned. However we learn, it needs to be in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.
It needs to be, but it is not always. We learn either way ... and that's where healing comes in ...
None of us get through this "education of life" unscathed.
We teach by example; we learn by example.
I'm sure there's something in here that doesn't hold water.
J

Anonymous said...

Oh, and ... it's important to teach our children and to learn, ourselves, how to recognize good guidance.
That might sound obvious, but it is not a skill I grew up with. I have had to learn it, painfully at times, as an adult.
J

Sarah said...

J, I agree that guidance can be erroneous. I was referring to the sort of guidance that I was referring to, lol. The sort I meant is beneficial guidance, not the harmful kind. I believe that we possess a full potential, and that in every way that we are not acting or being according to that whole potential, we have things to work on.

So saying, it is not beneficial guidance that could change our whole potential, since that whole potential is rooted in our imago dei. We stray from that, but it is our human core, so any beneficial guidance will bring our actions and thoughts and every attribute more into alignment with that whole potential, not away from it. If guidance has changed us at from that whole potential, then it could only be harmful, imo.

I have two other issues to take up with you, J, in love of course.

The second is that I don't see borne out in reality that any human being needs to be taught how to learn. We are innately learners, and all we can do is to facilitate or hinder learning. It is utterly impossible to not learn unless hindrance has won over facilitation and then that's often the limit of what we learn. We may be taught strategies for specific learning, such as reading, or rules applied in specific disciplines, but learning itself is innate.

Nobody teaches a child to walk or talk in his culture's language, but we all learn it anyway, and these have to be two of the most profound leaps in understanding and application given our humble beginnings as newborn helpless babes.

The third is that while it is accepted that trust and respect must be earned, I think the reality is very different.

Respect that is earned is not respect; it is elicited fear. It comes with implicit withdrawal of love or relationship or privilege or whatever. Respect that is extended upon trust, which is also not earned in a healthy relationship at the outset, at least, forms a healthy basis for relationship. If neither trust nor respect are extended without merit, there really is no basis for the formation of a relationship whatsoever.

How do two people knowing nothing of one another both require the other to earn both trust and respect? Something has to be given freely or neither can relate at all (in a healthy way- we see people playing with this all the time, but it always turns out badly).

With children it is different because they acclimate to their home environment no matter how dysfunctional. When parents require the earning of trust and respect, they short circuit the actual manner in which relationship is initially formed. Because the relationship is innate also having come into existence by growth in a womb and birth, many parents fail to see the huge disparity between the way they treat people outside their homes and the way they treat the ones within. The children grow up without the benefit of being trusted and respected and some go on to perpetrate the same upon others including their children while some realise this cycle and stop it. I am of the latter group, and very grateful to many people who have helped me to see this.

I also think that respect and trust are intimately tied in with forgiveness and reconciliation. To not extend trust or respect to another without merit, as in freely, is to presume the worst of them, and if in the case of an offense it is not freely restored with forgiveness, it is likely that forgiveness really didn't happen.

There are times when someone is repetitively injurious to us. In those cases, I must still extend trust and respect. What I do to protect the relationship though from further injury, is to make concessions and parameters within which we can still enjoy one another. But without trust and respect given freely, even an injured relationship cannot really be reconciled.

I extend trust to you freely and I respect you entirely. If there were an event that injured our friendship, my forgiveness would include the total restoration of both, and thusly we would be reconciled (assuming reciprocal willingness). My personal boundaries would maybe be more firmly established, and I would make choices that I think would allow us to continue to enjoy our friendship. That might mean visiting in a different place or with certain others or maybe once per week instead of three times, or whatever.

With children, they need to have modeled for them the free extension of respect and trust. It's by seeing and experiencing this that they trust and respect.

Think of someone who didn't trust you. Could you trust him/her? What about someone who thought you were undeserving of respect until s/he deemed you worthy of it? I think the idea of earning respect and trust completely misses both the point and basis of relationship and also the manner in which people relate in reality.

It would be impossible for anyone to see truly positive, as in life-giving, loving, results from actually putting this erroneous paradigm into practice.

I'm glad we don't. :)

Anonymous said...

I am nearly in need of a magnifying glass to see these comments ... sheesh.
What interesting thoughts. I love the term "imagao dei" and what it stands for. I believe we are capable of as much evil as we are good and that it is the quote-unquote guidance in our life that determines the outcome of our potential.
I do believe that trust is part of that and having other basic needs met.
Children learn through their senses. So do we. We also learn from watching others, from imitating others.
But I do believe that children can be taught how to "learn" as far as teaching them where to look for answers.
Jesus was constantly instructing his disciples. He taught by word and deed. And he used life lessons to teach them.
Making mistakes is definitely a good way to learn, provided you are in an environment that is safe (otherwise you may make the same mistakes time and time again).
I may be digging a hole here.
I know that you can't make blanket statements about everything because we are individuals and God speaks to us in countless creative ways.
I confess, I don't always trust people I don't know. I don't even think it's wise to trust people you don't know ... unless you have some reason to put that trust in them.
In that way, yes, I believe trust is earned. Children learn to trust those who care for them when they have their basic needs met.
I have seen what happens when children do not have their basic needs met: they learn not to trust anyone.
Children may start out trusting, but that can be changed quite quickly.
It is refreshing to hear your thoughts on restoration of trust. Yes, indeed, there are times when forgiveness is given but boundaries remain in place or are put in place for the good of one or both people.
Sometimes, though, we believe in restoration -- or we say we do because we believe in forgiveness and we know, at least in our minds, that people can change, but we don't always believe in restoration.
I believe that restoration can take place; or, perhaps that is not the right word because sometimes being restored is not what is desired.
I could qualify that by saying that we should be restored to a right relationship -- the relationship that God intended in the first place.
I am a dreamer that way, but that is what I hope for.
So many things need to be in place for that to happen.
Ultimately, what I think is good for me may not be good for someone else and it may be selfish of me to think restoration is what is needed.
I have been restored in a relationship that I never thought possible -- and that is because I was willing to forgive and to risk.
Doesn't God do that with us? He forgives, time after time, and he risks.
I realize he is God and he knows us ... knows us intimately: "intimately acquainted" with all of our ways.
There are degrees of trust, as well.
I trust one person to do something, another to do something else. I trust one person's character and know how they will react in certain situations. That provides security. That is security for children, especially, who do not understand all the variables and may have difficulty understanding inconsistency.
I may trust one friend to hear anything about me because I have established a friendship that allows for that. That is a wonderful thing -- and rare.
Ultimately, God is the only one who is completely and utterly trustworthy.
As far as extending trust and respect to those who are repeatedly injurious to us, I would say that they deserve respect only as a fellow human being. Forgiveness is a choice, and we need to forgive. I believe that.
Trust is another matter. Perhaps because there are levels of trust.
I respect another human being as far as treating them with care and concern, but I may not respect how they treat others.
If that makes sense.
We may differ on that.
I'll chat with you about that sometime if you like.
Big day, today.
Blessings,
J

Sarah said...

I have been restored in a relationship that I never thought possible -- and that is because I was willing to forgive and to risk.
Doesn't God do that with us? He forgives, time after time, and he risks.
This is so true. Any extension of ourselves requires risk, however small. So saying, taking the step to forgive necessitates risk, as does stepping forward to extend trust, I think.

Also, I agree wholeheartedly that children's trust is earned through attention to the meeting of their needs. Even with them, though, they first extend trust (think of the newborn and his/her unending and complete trust- in a healthy bond, of course) and if it is unmet with trust-worthiness, it is broken.

I agree with you, too that trust has many levels, which is why I think that some degree of trust has to be extended without merit for the foundation of a relationship to form. At the very least, when I encounter a new person, I have to trust that (for example) they will not harm me upon my approach. It's a basic and minute trust in this case, but extended trust nonetheless.

Restorative trust is always so tricky. I have a hard time navigating those situations, and so I make my attempt to understand and act firstly within my own set of expectations and values and then I try to lovingly apply what I think I understand outwardly.

It hasn't always been a successful endeavour, but as I learn more about myself in relation to others, and vice versa, I find that it's becoming easier to come to the point of willingness, and from there, everything seems to fall into place. So far at least. :)

I respect another human being as far as treating them with care and concern, but I may not respect how they treat others.Me too.

:)

Anonymous said...

God did not just risk a little to save us. He gave everything to bring us into relationship with him.
I did love books like The Most Moved Mover and The God Who Risks because they presented a God who went to the ends of the Earth to bring us back to him. Almost unfathomable to me that he desires relationship with us that much. And the thought of that brings me such joy that it overshadows other things (sometimes) in my life that bring me sorrow.
One of the biggest and the hardest things I've had to learn is to unclench my hand and let him take things from it and put other things in.
And trusting that he understands all of my needs and is the ultimate place to go for guidance, for friendship, for transformation -- the dearest friend I could have.
How I walk in that is largely up to me -- up to how I respond to growing in grace.
If we take even baby steps toward him, we reap great rewards.
When others disappoint or when we disappoint ourselves, he is there -- arms open wide, waiting.
Here's a thought to leave with tonight: We are transformed by the renewing of our minds. It's not a new thought, I know. It's biblical.
But what do you suppose it means?
I have my own thoughts on that, but would like to hear yours.
Goodnight and God bless you.
J

tag-photos said...

I seem to have a differing view of education.

First I will admit I have not rad the above comments.

Second...

I don't think there was ever a time when the masses educated themselves for fun. Sure there have always been small segments of "professional" students that studied for the sake of studying and learning all they could. But that has always been a rare small segment.

Education has always been about gathering and protecting wealth or status.

I will use medieval times as an example, off th top of my head with no sources or research to back up my words. Just some reasonable though.

Farmers educated themselves so the could farm. Little beyond that. Only a bit to help them live a little nicer, hunting for meat and to save money, sewing to save money, etc...

Craftsmen, same. Learn skills to perform their craft.

Aristocrats and nobility. Learn what they need to manipulate and govern people a their position dictates. Much more learning necessary to further separate them from the masses and insure they maintain their position.

Even the scholars learned what they did so they could teach those with the money to pay them so they could make a living and live better.


I would go so far as to argue it was not until recently in history that people started learning just for learnings sake.

Availability of information, drasticaly reduced work loads, increase in disposable income.

I think these are major factors in creating groups of people that learn a lot about things that do not affect their career a recent thing.